I’ve had people ask me many times about my favorite radio interviews during my years as the co-host of FamilyLife Today. The list is long and includes people whose names you likely know (R.C. Sproul, Elizabeth Elliot, Chuck Swindoll, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, John Wooden and others) as well as names you’ve probably never heard of (John and Donna Bishop, Ed Harrell, others).
One interview that is always on the list is a visit I was able to have with Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, now Cru. We spent about 90 minutes with Dr. Bright in his living room in Orlando, FL just a few months before he graduated to heaven. If you’re interested, you can listen to the highlights from that interview here.
The interview happened 18 years ago. In fact, it was 18 years ago this month that Dr. Bright passed on. And this week, his son Brad spent some time reflecting on his dad’s life and legacy.
Here’s what Brad wrote, under the title “Cancelling Bill Bright?”:
|His breathing slowed and then finally stopped. At last, he was face to face with his Master.|
I will never forget that moment 18 years ago today. My dad was so looking forward to the moment he would “graduate.” He was like a child anticipating entering Disneyland for the first time. My son, Keller, crawled up on his bed a few moments after he passed and softly said, “Grandfather, I hope you have fun in heaven.” My eight-year-old son understood.
Today, my dad’s body lies in a crypt. He carefully chose the words engraved on his headstone. Words that gave testimony to his all-consuming purpose in life. Words some counseled him not to use. Words he refused to water down because some might be offended. Words that today could get him “canceled.” My dad knew who he was, and Who he spent every waking moment serving. What are the words?
In this day of self-focused Christianity, with many demanding their “rights,” such God-focused faith is increasingly hard to find. The Apostle Paul’s opening words from Romans 1:1, “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ” are not found on the list of today’s most popular sermons. Paul’s declaration in 1 Cor 9:19-20, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more,” isn’t exactly the hallmark of modern Christianity in the West.
Like the Apostle Paul, my dad voluntarily gave up his “rights” because he wanted to wholeheartedly follow Jesus.
When I was about 10 years old, a group of key leaders within Campus Crusade for Christ came to him the morning after he arrived back from a six-week trip to Asia. Demanding his immediate resignation, they sought to seize control of the ministry. Most of us would be deeply offended and fight back. How did my dad respond? “Let’s all get on our knees and ask God what He wants.” He didn’t get defensive. He didn’t lose his temper. A slave doesn’t have rights. A slave doesn’t own what he pours his life blood into. A slave of Jesus is at peace, no matter the circumstances, because he can completely trust his good and faithful Master.
Twenty years later, one of the men who had been a part of the group that day confessed to me, “I realized the moment your dad said, ‘Let’s get on our knees and ask God what He wants,’ that the contest was over and we had lost.” Bill Bright never demanded his rights, he simply wanted to do the Master’s will.
When he won the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, he became a millionaire—for about 30 minutes. Then he signed away the check in order to promote prayer and fasting. As he said to me a few days later, “I gave it away over 45 years ago.”
Shortly after graduating from college I was sitting in my dad’s office while a reporter from a Christian magazine interviewed him. At one point the reporter posed a question I had never heard before, “Dr. Bright, share with me a problem you face that the average Christian can relate to.” My dad responded, “I don’t have problems.” The reporter then proceeded to ask the question seven times, seven different ways trying to get him to admit he had problems. Finally, my dad leaned forward and uttered heartfelt words I will never forget:
“I am a slave of Jesus. It is not the slave’s responsibility to be successful. The only responsibility of a slave is to do what the Master asks him to do. When you understand this, you also understand that a slave doesn’t have problems; a slave only has opportunities to see the Master work.”
What was the result of being a slave of Jesus for over 50 years? A life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness. A life of incredible purpose and vision. A life free of fear, anxiety and the pressures of the world. We are all slaves to something or someone. As Bob Dylan opined, ‘Ya gotta serve somebody.” It’s not a popular thought but it is reality. There is only One person I want to be enslaved to. My dad showed me the way.
Can you say with Bill Bright “I am a slave of Jesus by choice,” or do you take offense at every perceived slight? Would you like to be able to declare, “I don’t have problems, I only have opportunities to see the Master work?” The first step is to become a slave of Jesus by choice. No one can ever cancel that.
Men: You’ll be hearing more about this soon, but I wanted to let you know about plans we have in place for a monthly men’s gathering, starting in September.
A quick story first.
It was during a lunchtime conversation a few months ago that the light bulb went off in my head.
I was talking with a young dad about how we can more effectively spur each other on in our quest to live out our lives as men who serve Christ and make a Kingdom difference in our world. He was asking me about blogs I read, podcasts I listen to, how I stay current and how I decide what to read. Essentially, he was asking me if I could provide him with a syllabus on a variety of subjects so he could study at his own pace.
That’s when the idea hit me.
What if I picked out some subjects and was able to provide guys with a resource guide for men who wanted to do a deep dive on a particular topic? And then what if we all got together, had dinner and a chance to talk, interact, confess, pray for and encourage each other in our journeys?
We’re calling it First Tuesday. That’s because it will happen once a month, on the first Tuesday of every month, starting September 7. We’ll meet at church for dinner at 6:30p, then huddle up and launch a conversation about the topic of the month with an interview with someone who can help us think carefully about whatever we’re talking about that night. After the interview and some big group Q&A, we’ll divide up into smaller groups for a couple of application questions and a time of prayer. We’ll wrap up by 8:15p.
For those of you who have been around RCC for a while, the idea here is to take what we used to do at Burgers and Bros and make it a little more structured.
Our first First Tuesday will be all about how we can honor God and be successful in the area where most of our time and attention is spent each week – our jobs. The interview that night will be with Dr. Stephen Nichols, the President of the Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida. He’ll join us via Zoom. Stephen has written a booklet on this subject that is part of the bibliography I’m providing for you here. It’s one of the resources you can consider as you prepare for our time together.
Ahead of the meeting each month, I’ll be providing you with a bibliography. My goal here is to give you a whole bunch of options to consider as you get ready for our meeting. Some guys will want to go way deep on a particular topic. Other guys won’t have time to do any advanced reading or listening. The prep work is entirely optional. You don’t have to read or study anything to come to the dinner or to benefit from the conversation that will take place. But if you’re interested and want to read a few online articles, watch a few videos or snack on a podcast or two before you come, I’ll provide you with some options to consider.
In months to come, our topics will include conversations about —
> managing money
> leading your family spiritually
> how to form a “band of brothers”
and current subjects like what the Bible says about gender and sexuality and racism and CRT. Yes, we’ll go there.
So guys, pull up your calendar right now. Put the First Tuesday dinner in on the first Tuesday of each month, from now through next May. Plan to attend. And maybe invite a friend to join you. I think this can be an ideal setting for guys who are on the margins spiritually to find a safe place to connect with us.
First Tuesday. Are you ready? I’m pumped.
trip to israel May 24-June 3
As I said the newsletter last week, I’ll have details for you soon about our Israel trip next spring, May 24 – June 3. In the meantime, if you’re thinking you might like to go, this is a good time to check and make sure your passport is current. If it’s not, or if you don’t have a passport, apply now. COVID has slowed the passport process down a lot. It shouldn’t take nine months to get one, but it might take three or four months. Better to take care of it now than to wait until it’s too late!
You can find passport application information here.
When Lazarus’ sister Mary poured an expensive vial of perfume on Jesus’ feet and anointed them with her own tears, was her act of devotion an inappropriate extravagance? A waste of money that could have helped the poor? And what do her actions mean for us in our relationship with Jesus?
We’ll turn to John 12 this Sunday to explore.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!